Cipalla, Lancaster-Lebanon League Seniors Put On Memorable Final Show In Annual All-Star Game
Written by: Andy Herr on Wednesday, April 21st, 2021
For as strange of a year that the 2020-21 Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys’ high school basketball season was, any semblance of normalcy—no matter how brief it may have been—was always a welcomed sign. From players suiting up in masks, to teams literally having to live by the mantra of “taking one day at a time” in the most literal sense possible, this past year of local hoops will *hopefully* be nothing more than a one-off in terms of all of its varied intricacies.
Part of that degree of normalcy? Having the annual L-L Senior All-Star Game take place no doubt. And in a way, it seemed rather apropos that the traditional book-end of the league schedule would not be immune its own differences as well. Case in point, the date of the game itself ultimately and understandably pushed back from what we have all grown accustomed to. Not only that, but it was impossible to ignore the fact that this year was also wildly different in the sense that the fellas would have the stage all to themselves on Tuesday night with the absence of the ladies’ game taking place beforehand which has also become a staple we’ve been so used to seeing for years on end. And of course –in the most fitting ways of possible—the location of the game itself was up in the air somewhat with two possible options being left on the table. However, normalcy ultimately reigned supreme in that regard with Hempfield High School opening its doors for the finale of the marathon that is the L-L basketball season.
As far as the game on the floor itself was concerned, it too would be a bit of an outlier compared to years past. For instance, there didn’t seem to be nearly as much representation in the game given the somewhat constrained rosters due to a variety of different factors. In a sense, an occasion that has often become such a smorgasbord of local talent from the league’s various high schools didn’t seem to feel nearly as prevalent as it has before. The competition though? Well, that too was far and away a breath of fresh air when compared to recent history.
Fittingly, if the early portion of the game had to be highlighted by members of a specific school, it may have well been those from the league champions, right? With that in mind, it was rather symbolic to see the Lebanon Cedars’ two representatives, Braden Allwein and Isiah Rodriguez respectively, ignite their troops by scoring the first ten points with a complimentary brand of inside/outside play. From there, Allwein continued to have the hot hand from deep as yet another triple from the Cedars’ outgoing senior starter made it a 21-16 affair in the latter stages of the opening frame before the “road” team closed the first ten minutes of play with ownership of the 34-26 advantage.
But as was to be expected, the 3-ball remained an integral part of the game as it so often does in this annual contest. That especially ringed true once the second quarter proceedings got underway on Tuesday evening.
When he wasn’t busy dunking –en route to his game-high 33-point performance by the way— Warwick’s Kai Cipalla had no problems stepping out from beyond the arc as well in his final high school curtain call as Cipalla took turns with Pequea Valley’s Devon Colyer –a 1,000-point scorer in his career with the Braves—cashing in on long-range bombs much to the crowd’s delight. And as he had so many times throughout this past season, Columbia’s Brady Smith was on the scene in the waning stages of the second frame to offer up a trademark trifecta while left alone in the corner, helping send this nip and tuck affair into the halftime recess with just a seven-point difference separating the two teams at 56-49.
Speaking of familiar themes, dunking has also morphed itself into a seminal part of the game as well. Here, in the third quarter, is when the crowd bore witness to a Kai Cipalla windmill dunk, which was quickly followed down on the other end of the floor with a much more traditional, yet physically-imposing two-handed flush courtesy of Octorara’s Naji Hamilton, before a layup by Hamilton made it an 80-68 ballgame in favor of the road team at the conclusion of the third quarter.
At the onset of the final frame, Devon Colyer opened the fourth quarter proceedings with a pair of back-to-back buckets to up his team’s lead to an 86-68 threshold, seeming to make the eventual winner of this inconsequential affair all but a sure thing.
However, from that moment on, the “home” side made a valiant effort to roar back into the thick of things.
Although it started off rather innocently with a 3-ball from Cedar Crest’s Max Scipioni, making it a 91-75 difference, the flame was already lit. Following the Scipinoi trey, Conestoga Valley’s Luke Rumbaugh got into the mix by offering up six straight points of his own, bringing his side within a half dozen at 91-85 with the game just inside of five minutes left to be played. But they weren’t done there. After Rumbaugh’s flurry which brought the white-uniformed bunch within reach, a take to the rack by Lancaster Country Day’s Lance Lennon suddenly made it a two-point ballgame at 91-89 just one minute later.
However, that would be all the closer the home side would get for the remainder of the evening.
As he had so many times during this past season, Hempfield’s Ryan Hilton quickly came alive inside the final period to help his side prevail. Ironically, such was the case this time as well considering the key cog in the league runner-up’s rotation conjured up a back-breaking jumper to stop the bleeding for his side, finally thwarting the momentum for the opposition at long last. Then, with time running out, arguably the league’s most volatile stick of dynamite, Lancaster Mennonite’s Cole Fisher, capped off his sensational high school career with a timely triple to aid the cause which made it a 100-91 contest with Fisher finishing the evening off with a team-high 20-point outing before he heads off to Messiah next season.
But if we’re saving the best for last, make way for Kai Cipalla.
Granted, while the outcome of this fun-filled contest was already long-since decided, there was still time for one last highlight. And for a player who has made his mark over the last calendar year with a bevy of dunks that have become somewhat viral sensations within the local landscape if you will, the future Millersville Marauder authored up arguably the best dunk of the entire season by completing a lob dunk by having to reach well behind his head in order to complete while also showing off an almost vulgar and offensive wingspan for what the human race should be capable of, simultaneously bringing those in attendance to their feet while also rendering them speechless, with a bucket that rightly served as the exclamation mark on this crazy, whirlwind season. Oh, by the way, if you’re keeping track at home for your historical record books, the dark unis ended up taking the game in a 104-96 final decision.
So, for just as wild as it began, the 2020-21 season was then finally put to bed around 8 o’clock on Tuesday night. And sure, while this year was “unique” for many, many reasons which are far too long to mention specifically, this season may also end up being memorable when assessed in the next few years to come too.
To be certain, the upcoming forecast for the Lancaster-Lebanon League basketball appears to be extremely bright. With so many fast-rising young stars set to take center stage in the next few years down the line, it’s quite possible that the L-L League once again overtakes the Berks League while also keeping the YAIAA at bay in terms of acting as the collective hunters who are next in line to challenge the mighty Mid-Penn Conference for District 3 supremacy. Now, if we’re looking back with such an aspiration ultimately having come to fruition in a year or two, you’d certainly have to start with the 2020-21 pandemic year as the season that was arguably the catalyst for change. And when you think about it, that’s not such a bad way for this year’s senior class to be remembered. Hey, it certainly beats being labeled as the class that had to play with masks I’m sure.
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